first sign of interest in the railroad in Henderson County
began in 1832 after the exhibition of the Thomas BARLOW engine. In 1837 the Henderson
and Nashville Railroad was incorporated. A charter was granted
in Tennessee in 1847 to build the Henderson and Nashville
Railroad Company. On
02 Jun 1853, the city of Henderson authorized Rev.
Joel LAMBERT, President of the Henderson Railway to construct
a tram road over Fourth Street to the Ohio River Wharf.
Unexpected difficulties and the Civil War halted progress
at this point.
Sentiment was finally converted in favor of the railroad
and on 20 Aug 1860, when the first rail of the Henderson &
Nashville Railroad was laid on the old depot grounds in Henderson,
there was a great celebration. The first spike was
driven by Captain
The Mechanics Brass Band furnished the music and Colonel
John W. CROCKETT and C. M. PENNELL delivered glorious
and enthusiastic speeches.
By 04 Oct 1860, the first five miles of track were
laid before the War Between the States halted progress once
Henderson’s cost for building the Henderson & Nashville
railroad was $100,000.00. The city made its first
installments in 1860. In 186 Evansville, Henderson
& Nashville Railroad Company was incorporated.
A capitalist from Henderson County, Mr. John
Henry BARRET took his own money and bought a locomotive
engine and had it shipped to Henderson by boat.
locomotive, Engine No. 1 arrived on 30 Jan 1869.
Later in March, 1869 the track was completed to Madisonville,
Kentucky and on 20 May 1869, a grand barbecue was held
in the warehouse of MARSHALL & Company and a festival
was given at the fairgrounds by the city to the people along
the line, in honor of the completion of the road to Madisonville.
It was two years later in 1871, that the tracks were
finished to the Kentucky-Tennessee state line at Guthrie,
Kentucky. At Guthrie they could
connect to the Edgefield and Kentucky railroad which had been
laid in 1859. This
completed the rail line between Henderson and Nashville, Tennessee.
This gave Henderson a rail connection to the eastern
and southern part of the United States making travel to larger
cities much easier.
Until the Henderson rail line was connected to another
rail line, there was no need for a depot. Passenger stops were
now beginning to open all along the rail lines. In Henderson County
stops were opened at Busby, Robards and Sebree. Before long, the railroad
merged with the St. Louis and Southeastern Railway Company.
Henderson became a major railroad town in 1871 with
the addition of a round house; machine shop ; carpenter shop;
blacksmith shop ; and a paint shop . The buildings cost $13,000.00,
the machinery $4,000.00, the hoist cost $4,500.00 and was
one of only three in the United States; capacity 100 cars
per day. Total
cost of all, $31,500.00.
News of 28 Feb 1871, The Nashville Union and
American Newspaper is rejoicing over the completion of
our railroad says: “The railroad is completed
to Henderson and today the first train from this city will
go through. The
completion of this road is cause of jollification at one or
both ends of the line.
What says Henderson? Henderson stands ready
and willing to extend the warmest courtesies to her neighbors
along and at the end of the line.”
The weak point in this railroad line, however, was
the fact that there was no bridge across the Ohio River at
Henderson, Kentucky, passengers and freight had to be ferried
across by boat. This
greatly hindered operation and frequently ice in the river
cancelled the service altogether. Shortly after acquiring
the property the L&N Railroad took steps to remedy the
Feb 1872, The Henderson Bridge Company was incorporated
by an act of the General Assembly of Kentucky.
A freight depot was built.
Once again the St. Louis & Southeastern was bought out.
The train bridge across the Ohio River was started
1932 the present double-tracked structure was built
Other small rail lines were built in the area connecting
outlying areas to the Henderson rail line. Many of these lines
transported coal. Over
the years most other rail lines were absorbed into the L&N
Railroad lines. These rail lines carried
many different kinds of projects.
C. HANDY, “Father of the Blues”,came to Henderson
Bell was carried by rail through Henderson.
The depot that still stands today was built in 1901.
Although the names of the actual builders of the depot
are not currently known, it has been speculated that the chief
engineer of the railroad at that time approved all plans which
were used. Therefore,
MONTFORT (1854-1934), the first engineer of the L&N
Railroad Company, was at least partially responsible for its
The depot was entered into the National Register of Historical Buildings
on 14 May 1980. At
the time of the application the owner of the land was listed
as c/o Mr. R. A. IRVINE, Vice President for Real Estate, Illinois
Central Gulf Railroad, 233 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago,
Illinois, 60601. The owner of the building
was listed as c/o Mr. K. C. DUFFORD, Vice President Operations,
L & N Railroad, P. O. Box 32290, Louisville, Kentucky
was more distinguished than the depots typical of small railroad
town and has served as the departing and welcoming home place
for many servicemen. At the height of World
War II, 28 passenger trains passed through Henderson daily.
Politicians use to travel by train to campaign for
office. The candidate
would stop at cities along the way to speak, these trips were
called “whistle stop tours.” Presidential candidates
to visit Henderson by train included Warren
G. HARDING in 1920, Harry
S. TRUMAN and Thomas
E, DEWEY in 1948 and Dwight
D. EISENHOWER in 1952.
As air travel increased, passenger trains lost a great
deal of business. When
first opened, the amount of money handled each month was about
$5,000.00. The last passenger service
in Henderson was in 1971. With the growth of Evansville
Howell yards and the end of passenger service to Henderson,
there was no longer a need for switch and signal operators
in Henderson. Therefore,
in August 1978 the offices of the old depot were vacated.
The depot was scheduled for demolition on 01 Oct 1979.
The GOODLET Wrecking Company had been hired for the
demolition. The story about the
demolition was covered by The Gleaner newspaper.
Several citizens called Frieda Dannheiser, a member
of the Henderson Genealogical & Historical Society, to
see if she could help save the depot. Mrs. Dannheiser applied
for an extension of the date for razing this old building.
She immediately started working to get the Union Station
Depot declared an official historical landmark by the KENTUCKY HERITAGE COUNCIL The
depot itself was bought from the L&N Railroad for $1.00.
The land around the building was donated
to the Historical Society.
The site of the present station when purchased was
a depression, which was later filled in the required depth. When it was dedicated
and thrown open to the public on 01 Jul 1902, the three stations
then in use were abandoned. The buildings were either
utilized for other purposes by the various companies or the
materials dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere.
The cost of the depot was about $25,000.00 and that
was at a time when labor and materials were much cheaper. The contract was let
to a Henderson firm, BAILEY & KOERNER, and the result
of their skill stands as a monument through the years.
Besides serving its intended purpose, the depot was
an architectural work of art. It was literally the
front door to Henderson, Kentucky.
Mullin, Vice President and editor of The Legacy
complete list of original employees
Henderson Genealogical Society